Slovenian wins Harris Hill ski jump for a second time

Blaz Pavlic, 20, of Slovenia receives the Harris Hill ski jump's Winged Ski Trophy on Sunday from hill founder Fred Harris' daughter, Sandy.

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BRATTLEBORO — A 20-year-old Slovenian bested 30 of the world's top up-and-coming ski jumpers Sunday to win the Harris Hill ski jump's annual namesake Fred Harris Memorial Tournament.

Blaz Pavlic, performing for a crowd of several thousand spectators, came within two meters of matching the hill long-distance record of 104 meters he set with his first win in 2017.

"For the hill record, you need a little bit of headwind," said Pavlic, who jumped this year in calmer conditions.

Xaver Aigner, 16, of Austria placed second and Zak Silih, 23, of Slovenia finished third.

In the men's junior division, Evan Nichols, 15, of Lyme, N.H., won, with Niklas Malacinski of Colorado second and Erik Belshaw of Colorado third.

Two other U.S. men, Canden Wilkinson of Colorado's Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club and Hunter Gibson of Illinois' Norge Ski Club, had placed one-two respectively the day before, even though both fell in the last of their two Saturday jumps.

On Sunday, Wilkinson was moved up to another division to join his international peers while Gibson chose to rest and recuperate instead of compete.

In the women's junior division, Annika Belshaw, 16, of Colorado's Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club won, with Anna Hoffmann of Wisconsin second and Rachael Haerter of Utah third.

Jillian Highfill, 14, of Utah's Park City Ski & Snowboard Team was knocked momentarily unconscious after she fell on her first jump Sunday and was taken to the hospital for a checkup.

"She's OK and in good spirits," her coach said.

The nearly century-old event featured athletes from eight states, Austria and Slovenia shooting off New England's only Olympic-size venue at speeds of 60 mph before soaring more than 300 feet in the air.

One hometown jumper, Brattleboro's Spencer Knickerbocker, not only competed but also helped organize the event.

"It's perfect," the 26-year-old Knickerbocker said of the jump's condition.

The late Fred Harris started it all 97 years ago when, after founding the Dartmouth Outing Club as a college student in 1909, he returned to his hometown to create the ski jump — now one of just six of its size in the country — in 1922.

Harris' daughter, Sandy, presented this weekend's winners with medals.

Harris Hill boasts a snowmaking system, so the program takes place annually regardless of ground cover in surrounding areas. More information about the ski jump can be found at www.harrishillskijump.com or the event's Facebook and Twitter pages.


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